Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Frouda Jeffries touched down on the soil of Binauer 4, smart boots neutralizing any toxins and spreading defoliant footsteps as she walked up to the leader of the plants.

‘His’ name was a gust of pheromones. They just called him Windy. Giant, bulbous appendages hung over ivy tentacles as he shuddered a rustling, fearful welcome to Frouda. The bleached footprints leading back to the blast crater underneath their landing craft spelled out how diplomatic they were prepared to be. They took it safe and kind with challengers to their authority but when a race was found to be an easy conquest, the masks came off.

They were here to make the kind of deal that involved little negotiation and a lot of ‘yes’ from the plant life whether they liked it or not.

“Human”, his grassreed, recently-grown vocal cords hummed. It was like talking to a harp.

“Hey there Windy.” Frouda responded. “Good to see you again. Did you consider our offer?”

“Yess” said Windy. His thousands of leaves rustled and a slight breeze rolled over him.

The thing about the plants is that their brains grew on the outside. The smarter the plant, the bigger and more numerous the brains. They grew more mindpods as they needed them to solve problems.

The thing about these mindpods is that they were delicious. Delicious meant money. They humans were here to harvest.

“You want to take our minds to eat them. And you want to keep coming back. You want to lobotomize our planet every season. And our reward for this is that you will not annihilate us. In the hopes that the fad will pass and we will no longer provide you with profit. After that point, we will be left alone to continue our evolutionary path.” Windy’s musical words drifted across to Frouda.

“Yeah. Hey, you just managed to distill a three-hundred page contract into a few sentences. I’m impressed.” Frouda said.

“We reject your offer.” Said Windy, “But we may be able to help each other.”

Frouda looked up from her wrist com at the cluster of fronds in front of her.

“As you saw, we were able to grow eyes to read your contracts. Our family grew different minds to understand your language. We grew these vocal cords to speak with you.” He said.

“Uh, yeah. So?” Frouda retorted. This was not following the script.

“We can grow humans now.” Windy said.

Frouda took a step back and bumped into something. With a startled yip, she whirled around. And saw herself staring back with a small grin.

“The fidelity to your original is accurate. It will be enough to fool your ship mates. It will tell them that the deal is off. This is the most peaceful solution.” Windy rustled.

Frouda stared slack-jawed at the vegetable copy of her. They’d even copied the suit. It was fascinating and completely believable. “Gotta give you credit, Windy,” Frouda whispered through terrified lips. “You really nailed it.”

As she brought her wrist com up to her mouth to signal the ship for help, the spores in her breathing apparatus activated, swelling up to tennis balls and blocking her intake valves. Aerosol seed flocks immolated themselves in her electronics, coating the ciruits with nectar. A mess of thorns ravaged through the fabric of her suit as shoots poured in through the holes. They grew into branches and then flowered inside of Frouda. She didn’t know plants could move so fast. Her last thought was that she smelled strawberries, not knowing if it was a gift from Windy or if the killer plants just smelled like that.

Frouda’s body disintegrated into fertilizer.

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